Senior Lecturer Mike Henderson retires after 19 years

Mike Henderson

When students think about UW’s journalism program, one particular lecturer comes to mind. This educator is Mike Henderson, known for his unique sense of humor and ability to impart knowledge to students, thereby creating better writers. After a 19-year tenure, Henderson has decided to retire from teaching at the University of Washington.

Writing and contributing to news sources has been second nature to Henderson throughout the years. “I’ve worked for professional news organizations for parts of every year since 1964,” Henderson said. Close to where he grew up in the suburbs of Portland, his first writing opportunity was sports reporting for The Valley Times in Beaverton, Oregon. While attending college at the University of Oregon, Henderson worked for the Eugene Register-Guard.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree, Henderson took his talent north to Alaska to contribute to The Anchorage Times from 1971-72. During those years, he was also the Alaska correspondent for Reuters.

When the time in Anchorage ran its course, Henderson found himself in Seattle for the first time where he was the editor of the Sunday culture magazine, Arts and Book World for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. This was where he met his wife, Pat Foote, the very day he started, August 14, 1972. A year later, his duties shifted as he became the arts/entertainment editor and film critic.

By 1978, Henderson left the Seattle P-I and went on to The Seattle Times where he was an editor on the news desk and contributor to the Sunday magazine. By 1980, The Herald of Everett offered a job to Henderson. It was at this time, while their careers flourished, Henderson and Foote found their sense of home in the Northwest.

“I aspired to join the Washington Post but my wife was entrenched in her career at The Seattle Times, so we didn’t seriously consider leaving the Northwest,” he said.

At The Herald, Henderson busied himself with multiple positions. He was a general columnist, food and restaurant critic, and magazine writer. His writings were published five to six times weekly. “Two years worth of my food columns were adapted for a cookbook, a copy of which surfaced last summer at a garage sale in Wenatchee, where it was purchased by a former student,” he said.

A number of Henderson’s columns have appeared in newspapers throughout North America. Non-local-interest content was picked up for distribution by big name news sources such as The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times/Washington Post News Service. Henderson also had a column published in The Japan Times. “I wish I’d been paid extra for these secondary publications, but alas.”

In 1993, Henderson left the staff at The Herald but continued to write on contract until 2002 when he switched to The Seattle Weekly, writing mainly about sports. By 1994, Henderson was hired to teach at the UW.  His decision to begin a teaching career stemmed from an old college goal. This included “being a newspaper film critic, a columnist, and a teacher at the college level,” Henderson explained. “I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunities to accomplish all three.”

In 2006, Henderson, along with some of his friends from The Seattle Weekly, left the publication to start Crosscut.com, a Seattle-based online-only news and opinion resource. Three days after the website went live, his first contribution was published online. Since 2006, he contributed a weekly post until the summer of 2012.

Henderson takes pride in how he is one of only two journalists to have written for all of the Northwest publications. In addition, he has been published in The Tacoma News Tribune and the Bellevue Journal-American.

Aside from print media, Henderson has written two novels – “The Destiny Star” and “The Obligatory Year.” In 1995, Henderson also co-wrote a nonfiction book titled “Why I am an Abortion Doctorwith his friend Dr. Suzanne Poppema. “Suzanne and I will always be proud that she summoned the courage at a difficult and dangerous time to tell her story,” Henderson said. “We were pleased that the book was well-reviewed by such publications as the New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet and Ms. Magazine.

Henderson Rome

Henderson has contributed heavily in his teaching career at the UW. Most years he’s taught eight to ten courses, including summer quarter. In 2007, Henderson got involved in the Department of Communication’s Rome program, teaching a cultural matters course that covered food, cinema, and travel.

For the past decade, Henderson has overseen the Olympia Legislative Reporting Internship Program. “I put it together in nine of the past 12 years. I select students and match them with news organizations. I also arrange information sessions prior to the Legislature convening,” he said. “During Winter Quarter I travel to Olympia at least twice a week to convene with student reporters, if they require it. I also make myself available to give first edits when requested, so I typically handle about six stories per week and offer advice via phone and email.”

For the past 10 years, Henderson has also co-taught an opinion-writing course with a Seattle Times journalist each fall quarter. “I’ve taught it every year except 2011. Four Seattle Times professionals of my acquaintance have co-taught at least once, but Joni Balter, a superb columnist and editor, has done so exclusively since 2006. I teach the first half of the quarter, covering reviewing/criticism and editorial-writing. Joni then takes over and addresses column-writing,” he explained.

“I’m proud to note that I’ve never used a textbook of any kind, but have collected many and I genuinely wish someone would come to my office and take them away,” Henderson said. “I’m also extremely proud of many former students who have gone on to impressive careers. I keep in touch with a number of them.”

At the request of the former Chair, Tony Giffard, in 1998 Henderson put together a course for non-journalism majors – Writing for Mass Media. This course will be taught by Henderson for the 60th and final time during the summer of 2013.

Henderson plans on using his time for volunteer work after he retires from the UW. “As long as the work has no heavy-lifting,” he says. He also mentioned that he and his wife plan to travel out of the country more often. He enjoys playing golf, watching a lot of movies, reading with his e-reader and spending quality time with kids Will (33, a chef) and Jenna (30, an attorney) and friends such as his dogs Keller and Sparky.

Senior journalism student Erin Flemming offered her thoughts about her experience under the tutelage of Henderson. Flemming has completed two courses with Henderson as well as the Olympia program.

“It was cool to get to know him outside of the classroom setting. I know he has my back. He’s a real go-to guy and he’s very reliable and supportive,” she said.

“Anyone who knows him is well aware of his sarcasm,” said Marika Price, another former student. “While his sharp wit and deep voice are definitely intimidating, Mike is by far the most caring teacher. It’s not until you leave his classroom that you realize how much you have learned.”

Henderson intends to continue to be a good friend to the Department of Communication. He offered his thoughts on his retirement.

“Having worked professionally parts of every year for nearly half a century, I’d say I’m an excellent candidate for retirement. I’ll be well-occupied ghost-writing on a blog for a progressive organization,” he said. “What I value the most about the work? I’d say that it’s the fact that I’ve been afforded the chance to meet many (mostly) young people I otherwise never would’ve gotten to know.”

Congratulations on your retirement, Mike. We will miss you.

-BY CHRIS DUCLOS